I’ve been playing with gouache of late, but really have missed watercolor and its transparency. Yesterday I thought I would sit down to do some painting, but it never happened. Today, out on the patio reading a book, I looked around at all the plants, and realized, duh! There is a lot to play with out here!
I’d moved all my orchids outside to water and air out a bit. This is the last of the blooming phalenopsis, so I painted it – no pencil or preliminary value studies – just direct watercolor and let it happen. I can tell by the awkward handling of the paint I am out of practice; as well, the paper is not the best, but that is what sketch books are for.
About 6 weeks ago I took all my old and new flower seeds and planted them helter-skelter. These are zinnias, plants which are notorious for wilting with not enough water – like in a couple of hours they can look like they will just fall over – but come back miraculously with a bit of help. Totally crack me up – such simple flowers to be so demanding. Kind of nervy. Anyway, what I like about them is that they have beautifully shaped leaves, lovely stems, and smallish bright flowers that burst out of all the green surrounding them. Here, a bit better handling, with a use of negative painting to create the leaves and perhaps a bit of dimension.
Finally, my favorite of the bunch. Brush control and forethought. Here I was perched on a rather tall chair, looking down onto the pot of scaveola, a sort of creeper from what I can observe. It has a variety of leaf shapes, and the purple flowers sort of send out petals from behind the leaves in a peek-a-boo fashion. I took a photo of this for Instagram, but you can also see the photo below of plant and sketch, taken with my phone.
It’s the dead of winter in sunny old California, but tulips are not to be found even here until the spring. The beauty of tulips, especially the pale ones, is the vast and subtle array of colors found within a single blossom. As a kid in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, I loved the arrival of the tulips through the snow.
The same tomatoes from yesterday. This morning, I decided to go with the “direct watercolor” approach – paint directly and do not do any preliminary drawings or use lines. I think these are more successful than yesterday’s tomatoes – a bit looser and more to my liking. They do seem to float in space a bit, especially the small one on the right.
The “Bay Area” is the area around San Francisco Bay, and includes picturesque places such as San Francisco itself, to across the bay north and east. It’s a mixture of urban sprawl and older neighborhoods, rich and poor. I’ve spent time there off and on, and it is always a pleasure. It’s very different than SoCal, let me tell you!
Direct watercolor is being done here – and proportions are a bear! It takes time and practice to be able to render things in the correct relationship to each other. I never learned the “pencil comparison” method – the one where you see the artist hold up his pencil toward the subject matter and then draw on the paper, and then repeat the process. Given how disproportionate many of my direct watercolors are, I think it will be something to master this summer in my spare time.
Friday was a busy, busy painting day! Quick sketch in the morning, class in the afternoon. More last night. And this morning I did this using only a flat brush, learning about its characteristics and such. I even got into using it really, really dry, which I had forgotten about. And the side – the edge of the flat – to make little dabs, such as in the pink flowers. It was great for wood texture, and fun for the sky. This was done without a preliminary sketch nor lines drawn on the paper.
Another “direct watercolor” from a photo I took sometime ago when up along the bluffs in Carpinteria, CA. This one might be worth repeating just because there are some areas I really like about it, but the rocks to the left of the cliff are rather dismal. The topmost rock was really a boat on the horizon! I painted the boat first, and then it just got bigger and bigger, to the point I morphed it into a dreary rock. Those rocks need work, as does the color gradation of the sand on the beach. I like a lot of the colors, but overall the sparkle is missing from the photo. If at first you don’t succeed . . . ya know.
I saw some climbing roses against a bright white wall, dancing with the wind. The play of light and dark, flickering shadows, and the swaying of the roses in the wind – tried to catch it in this morning’s sketch. No lines, direct watercolor.
I always have loved vistas of wildflowers, and the red poppies seen in so many French paintings always seem wonderful to me. Red like that is hard to find (I think) in the natural world. Painting it is even harder. I ended up using mostly Cadmium Red Orange.
This is another direct watercolor from this morning, but because of the multiple layers of washes, I had to let it dry in between. I went about getting ready for work between layers. At first, I just did a sky and put in colors of grasses and poppies – but they all bled together, so the second attempt – the one above – is the final version. If you look at the pictures below – click on them to see them in sequence – you can see what I did. I scanned each wash layer before doing the next.
Sk with white for grasses and flowers
Base wash with white space for poppies
Poppies on dried washes
Another focus on direct watercolor – no lines, no pencil. Here, my main focus was to draw straight lines with a brush, as well as consider how not to get everything bleeding into each section. I tried to do one area at a time – say, one building part – and then move on to one adjacent to it, working carefully to make each area separate but connected. Sounds like a lot of hooey when I read it, but that’s best description I can give right now! I’m running late to work.
From a photo I took not too long ago – a bit of the local botanical gardens. There is a path in there somewhere, but it got lost! Direct watercolor is not easy to do.